On October 8th, 2014, Mark Morgan began the most difficult journey of his young life. The fourteen-year-old was in class at Newbury High School when he began experiencing unexplained numbness and tingling in his legs. By the time his school bus dropped him at home that afternoon, Mark could not walk. His older brother, Michael, 16, carried him off the bus. When the boys’ nine-year-old brother, M.J., saw the scene unfold, he ran inside to get their mom.
Mark’s parents, Matt and Marie, rushed Mark to the local emergency room. By this time, Mark’s pain was so intense that he was transported by ambulance to University Hospital Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital pediatric intensive care unit in Cleveland. When doctors examined him, Mark was completely paralyzed from the waist down. Matt and Marie were in shock. How could something so devastating happen to their son so quickly, and without any bodily injury?
Mark was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis (TM), a neurological disorder caused by inflammation of the spinal cord. Immune cells attack and injure the nervous system, causing temporary or permanent damage. Transverse myelitis is a rare disease; 1400 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Mark received all medical treatments available, including high doses of steroids for inflammation and plasmapheresis to boost his immune system. Immediately following the treatments, Mark was sent to Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital for Rehabilitation.
After six weeks of rehab at the Cleveland Clinic, Mark was sent back to UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital for a badly swollen leg and continuous low-grade fevers. CT scans, X-rays, MRIs and other tests were quickly performed. Doctors ruled out blood clot, infection, and a broken bone. The doctors worked diligently to determine a diagnosis, but believed the swelling was related to Mark’s transverse myelitis. UH doctors suggested that the Morgans utilize the UH Integrative Medicine department for other additional treatments.
Mark’s most recent stay at University Hospital began on December 6, 2014, and continued through January 14, 2015. Needless to say, the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s holidays were difficult for the entire Morgan family. In mid-January, Matt and Marie were referred to Shriners Hospitals for Children, Chicago, which specializes in spinal cord injuries. With Marie by his side, Mark was transferred from University Hospitals to Shriners for testing and treatment.
In addition to transverse myelitis, Mark was diagnosed with heterotopic ossification, a disease that causes bone to form in the soft tissue of muscle. As a result, Mark's left thigh will always be larger than his right. As an inpatient, Mark receives physical and occupational therapies for his condition.
Mark’s discharge date is set for February 13, 2015. Before he can come home, modifications to the Morgan home must be completed. A wheelchair ramp and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom are the most critical of the needed modifications. The family will face additional expenses for items not covered by insurance, including disposable medical supplies, shower chair, stander, and a hospital bed. Mark’s doctors recommend physical and occupational therapies and on-going follow up with the University Hospitals Integrative Medicine department. Other expenses include travel expenses to and from Shriners Hospitals in Chicago; Mark is to return there every three months for evaluation and treatment.
The Morgans are very proud of Mark, who turned 15 on December 8. He has worked extremely hard during rehab and is determined to walk again. As of February 2, Mark has regained some sensation around his waist but is still unable to walk. Though his paralysis remains, Mark’s upper body strength has developed tremendously, which helps him continue on his road to independence.
Mark, who has not been home since October 8, is looking forward to reuniting with his family and friends. He loves playing his electric guitars, listening to Metallica, swimming, and lifting weights. Before his diagnosis, Mark enjoyed riding ATVs through the woods and playing video games with friends.
The Morgan family will never give up hope for Mark's complete recovery. Please keep them in your prayers, as they believe that with God, all thing are possible!
Thank you for your support. God bless you!
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